Survivors of Abuse and Re-establishing Self WorthBy
Being survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, religious abuse or psychological abuse has a lasting effect on us. One of the worst consequences is that our value has been falsely defined by others. We are told who we are and who we should be. Over time we are conditioned to accept that we don’t deserve as much as others; we don’t feel like we are “as good” as others and we don’t know how to grow our own healthy self esteem. The building blocks for self esteem and self worth were taken from us, often when we were children. Abuse robs us of innocence and the ability to progress to maturity in a healthy way and since we are conditioned to somehow accept that the abuse is something we deserved or caused, we don’t look at ourselves with clear vision.
In my case I constantly tried to fix me and when others were having a bad day I thought I should fix that too. In any relationship problem in my life, I took responsibility for the repair of it. I took the blame for the breakdown of it too. This didn’t always look like I agreed that it was my fault, but I was willing to believe that I was too sensitive, too demanding, too controlling, too needy and too unreasonable, and I was willing to adjust my expectations accordingly. Usually that still meant that I was willing to take less than I deserved and take way less than I was willing to contribute to a relationship. The problem was that I was always the one doing the adjusting. That came from the conditioning and the belief system that I adopted as a result of being devalued. I had grown up believing that I was not as important, not as valuable as others and I was used to it. I was used to trying to make someone else happy and I believed that if I complied that I would be safer. It never occurred to me that the abuse was not something I caused OR deserved so I still believed that being what someone else wanted was where I would be accepted and loved and the truth is that I was never once loved for being who someone else wanted. It was as though they demanded I be who they wanted me to be and then they resented me for being so compliant and in order to feel good about themselves again, they demanded me to change more. I was so used to jumping through these hoops that I kept trying to comply and the cycle just continued; the fog got thicker and I had trouble seeing what was really going on. My self esteem got worse all the time, but until I realized the root of the problem, there was no real lasting recovery.
I had to get to the bottom of the truth before I could discover who I really am and find my value for myself. This began with me realizing that I had always been at the bottom of the value barrel in my family of origin, in my husband’s family and then it was even happening in my marriage family, with my husband and kids. I was so used to having less value that I accepted and even expected to have less value. I accepted it as the truth.
I had to decide that I was worth more, that I was worth saving and that I deserved equal value. And then I had to realize that it was up to me to take my value back; to take back the value and self worth that had been taken from me. I am not suggesting that this was easy, or that all I had to do was decide to do it. I had to go deep into the heart of what I believed about myself, and realize that my beliefs were taught to me by abusers and controllers and that most of my beliefs about myself were not given to me by people who loved me in the true definition of love. I was able to grow up my self esteem when I realized where the damage to it came from and righted those wrong beliefs. I had to realize that no one, not parent, friend, lover or therapist, was going to be able to establish my worth for me. They can help along the way, but no one’s approval is going to make me okay unless I believe I am okay, but it was only because I realized how ripped off I had been by the adults in my life, that I was able to take responsibility for my recovery and begin to emerge from broken!
If you believe you aren’t worth it, nothing will convince you to treat yourself otherwise.